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Last Call review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘ambitious undertaking’

Last Call, at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Geert De Vleesschauwer Last Call, at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Geert De Vleesschauwer
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A teenager runs away and wanders through the city as it goes about its usual business night and day. She wonders whether anyone will notice her and what she’ll discover at the end of her adventure down the rabbit

hole. Gently inquiring, existentialist and rage-free, this is angst the Generation Y way, based on an urban graphic novel by Flemish cartoonist Philip Paquet and writer Adriaan Van Aken, augmented by narration and
music.

The black-and-white strip comes with a minimum of text and is projected on to a large screen – the projected cartoon boxes have a manga flow which adapts nicely to being faded in and out – while the live
performances fill in the thoughts and context. Sara Vertongen veers from quiet and dreamy to raucous and challenging as the narrator, using her own expressive translation from the original Dutch, while Joris
Caluwaerts accompanies on lush processed acoustic piano and fuzz guitar.

Like Paquet’s beloved jazz (his best known work is entitled Louis Armstrong), this is very much a riff across 64 pages through everyday society with the odd nod to its underlying themes. As in the storyline,
there’s an ebb and flow to this multi-levelled piece, but ultimately director Van Aken is unable to prevent the flood of scenes of the madding crowd from seeming samey. A further distraction is the artwork which, at least here on screen, features inconsistently faded markers and incomplete details. Additionally the large screen drowns out what would otherwise be effective lighting.

Last Call (original title Dansen Drinken Betalen) is an ambitious undertaking pulled off well but there’s that nagging sense that the individual parts of the material aren’t up to the challenge.

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Verdict
Ambitious multi-media interpretation of Belgian graphic novel doesn’t always hit the right chord
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